I am building a workshop to teach User-Centered Design. The target audience is people who want to integrate UCD into their software development process.

What I am looking for is activities and games to teach different aspects of UCD so that they can really "feel" the difference UCD makes, the before and after.

My workshop focuses on three areas:

  • User Research (Contextual Inquiry, Interviews, Analyzing the data, establishing goals, creating personas, etc...)

  • Prototype Design (Information Architecture, IxD topics (Affordances, Visibility, Modeless operation, etc...), some light graphic design concepts)

  • User Tests (Creating a test, How to perform a user test, A/B testing, analyzing the results, etc...)

For example:

  • In Scott Klemmer's online HCI classes at Stanford, he shows how you can play a game by going back and forth with a partner, choosing 3 numbers, from 1 through 9, to total up to 15. This game is complicated and requires a lot of remembering numbers. Then, he talks about the simplicity of Tic-Tac-Toe. Finally, he shows how you can use a magic square to play the same game without having to think, since everything adds up to 15 in a Magic Square. (http://cf.synergylearning.org/images/420.gif) This is a great example of Information Architecture, amongst other things.

  • I took a "Toyota Lean Production System" workshop once, and the teacher set the group up into a pipeline, producing widgets (pieces of folded paper with writing on them). We did the exercise one way with a bunch of obvious shortcomings (lots of walking between stations, inefficient processes: fold unfold write fold unfold) We analyzed the pipeline, suggested some optimizations, and ran the exercise again with much higher production volume and quality.

My question is:

Are there any books, websites, blogs, etc... that you can recommend (and even better, link to!) that have activities / games like this?

Thank you!

P.S.: Something else I can add to clarify my question:

One of the issues I have is explaining the importance of UX to programmers. So I'm also looking for games to help them FEEL the difference good UX makes, such as:

  • To explain the importance of consistent color choices in the interface: Try to find a specific variable in some code, with and without color syntax.

  • To explain the importance of undo / redo for a content creation application: Try to draw a diagram, with changing requirements, under time pressure... without an eraser.

  • To explain the importance of IA / chunking: Try to memorize a series of letters and numbers that are organized randomly... then, the same letters and numbers organized into recognizable acronyms (CIA, KGB, FBI, etc...) and see how many more you can remember.

I can also add that someone already suggested the book "Gamestorming", which is good, but I'm sure there are even more examples out there, in the vein of Scott Klemmer's Tic Tac Toe / Magic Square example.

  • Are you perhaps missing out on an important element of UCD, which is to think like a user? I find the easiest way to do this is to pick a product that they never use or have very little experience with, and learn about by asking people and working out how they would use this. For example, you can get a male participant to walk into a store selling women's shoes, or maybe someone who doesn't play sport to walk into an sports store. All the topics that you mention is great, but if you can't get the UX designer to think like a user then it is difficult to put those methods into practice.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 22:15
  • Thanks for the great comment! Do you have any suggestions as to how that could be done in a workshop? It's tough to get people to go out to a women's shoe store or sports store during a workshop... :D
    – daydalis
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 0:32
  • 1
    There is no correct answer to this question. Are you just looking for loads of examples? That doesn't really work so well in a Question and Answer website, people need to be able to submit an answer that directly solves the problem and people upvote those answers if they actually solve the issue.
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 10:52
  • Take also a look at this question: ux.stackexchange.com/q/25716/95 Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 22:16

3 Answers 3


I can't directly recommend a website or game, but I can suggest a couple of activities.

Take a really poorly designed website (I like to use BoardGameGeeks.com) and have the class do a set of activities. 1. Create a content hierarchy for a set of pages and then discuss the information architecture of them. 2. Do a card sorting activity to come up with a new architecture.

Have everyone bring in a TV remote control. Discuss how to redesign it. Then give everyone paper and 20 minutes to mock-up a paper-prototype of a new one. Then split the class into users & testers; switch. The entire activity takes about 1 hour, but is worth it.

Last, you may be able to adapt this activity which we use for interviewing after reading the article. It really highlights the user first to power the activity.


Since it is a workshop, I would go for a hands-on mini-project with UCD. You might want to pick a theme/project domain which your audience is familiar with to make it more pervasive. You can conduct a short one with you as the designer and the audience as the users to show how it's done and then break them off into teams and have them work on a slightly larger project.

You start off by explaining the process of UCD:

  • Find the target domain of the product
  • Find existing products
  • Evaluate the products
  • Survey what people like/dislike about those products
  • Come up with design alternatives of solutions
  • Do a rapid prototype (paper/web based) of the workflow of the product
  • Evaluate the design by conducting a user study
  • Rinse repeat from the Design alternative/prototyping phase if needed
  • Do a peer evaluation of the design/critique

Also, keep emphasizing, YOU ARE NOT THE USER.

For each phase you might want to preselect which methods they will be using, or give them alternate methods they can use. Your intent is not to teach them/make them memorize the methods, but, rather give them a feel of the workflow. They can look up different methods and their details later on. But the hand-on experience of doing it will have a more lasting impact.

Now, depending on the number of people present in the workshop or the location of the workshop, you might have to end up using the participants from different teams to be test users or something.

A book which I keep handy is The Universal Methods of Design, it is a quick guide for flipping through the different tools in a UX designers arsenal. http://www.amazon.com/Universal-Methods-Design-Innovative-Effective/dp/1592537561


I can't remember the exact source, but there was a great example of an activity that demonstrates the 'conversation' that the user interface is supposed to have with the user which you can play. It involves one person acting as the user, and the other person as the UI by donning some consume that represents a browser window or device. Then you simply get one person to narrate their actions and for the UI to narrate any response or feedback. The exercise is to compare and contrast the user experience you get by well designed messages and feedback compared to what you see on some of the poorly designed website or software.

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